Silence. And darkness. No sound. No light, except now the small beam from the lamp beside my bed. Snug warmth on the first cold night of the year.
In this moment, as I listen to the silence I can hear a frog in the far distance. Perhaps many, but too far away to tell. Tink, tink, tink. They are only audible because I am straining to hear sounds in this silent place.
What other life is there around? I know there are cattle for we saw them through the light rain as we arrived. And on the hill, there are wildebeest, ostrich, blesbok and a lone springbok. But they are far away, for from their high and open pastures we have descended.
A single narrow track on a darkening evening, even though it is only part way through the afternoon. The clouds are pressing down, light rain falling, mountains invisible. I know they are there. I have seen them in the heat of summer and covered in snow in the depth of winter. But today, when I so wanted my companions to see rhe beauty of this place, today they are veiled in cloud.
So in the gloom we descend. There has been rain and the track is muddy and slippery. Steep in places, it has concrete stretches to give traction. But in others chocolate-coloured puddles lie, obscuring whatever lurks beneath their surface.
The only way is forward. And down. We inch ahead as our experienced driver cautiously navigates each corner, each challenge. The view opens up ahead of us. In sunshine it is glorious. Now, in mist and rain, the valley cannot be reached soon enough.
But speed cannot be our priority today. So we creep foward. Down and down. We are grateful for the vehicle we have, built for such situations. But we are no adventurers. No Roof of Africa experiences for us. We are merely travellers visiting a place which, for me, holds special memories of times past, of family and loved ones no longer here.
Our host comes out to greet us, smiling with words of welcome. Through the glowing windows we can see a roaring fire. And we are led inside,offered warming drinks and sink into deep chairs with sighs of relief, grateful for our safe arrival.
Tomorrow we will face the uphill climb. But not before i have walked to the dam and crossed the bridge to the island and stood under the willow tree. And remembered. Even now, after so many years, it is good to face the memories.
The call of an Egyptian goose breaks the silence and I wonder what has disturbed it. Perhaps some predator, slinking through the night has come across its resting place.
Life goes on. Out there. In the dark and the silence. And I sit, warm and snug in my room, content in the past and the present. And I whisper a prayer of thanks to my God who provides such moments, made all the more precious by the challenge of the descent.
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